• Users Online: 178
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 8-12

Enhancing the sustainable development goals through yoga-based learning

1 Division of Yoga and Humanities, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Distinguished Research Professor, College of Pharmacy and Health Care, Tajen University, Pingtung, Taiwan

Date of Submission21-Oct-2021
Date of Acceptance03-Jan-2022
Date of Web Publication26-Apr-2022

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Govindasamy Agoramoorthy
College of Pharmacy and Health Care, Tajen University, Yanpu, Pingtung 907
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijoyppp.ijoyppp_29_21

Rights and Permissions

Learning based on indigenous knowledge has been widely accepted as an important means to inspire and enforce the sustainable development goals (SDGs) mandated by the United Nations. Nevertheless, little is known on the potential of yoga-based traditional learning to enhance the SDGs. In fact, yoga-based learning started in India over two millennia ago, and the practice has gained global attention in recent decades. This article discusses the less known aspect of how students can learn more about yoga-based knowledge to refine their personalities to promote the SDGs. It also discusses teachers, especially those who lead yoga knowledge transferring enterprises in catalyzing the active participation of learners leading to sustainable outcomes to preserve nature and decelerate climate change consequences.

Keywords: Knowledge, learning, sustainable development goals, sustainable development, yoga

How to cite this article:
Dayananda Swamy H R, Agoramoorthy G. Enhancing the sustainable development goals through yoga-based learning. J Appl Conscious Stud 2022;10:8-12

How to cite this URL:
Dayananda Swamy H R, Agoramoorthy G. Enhancing the sustainable development goals through yoga-based learning. J Appl Conscious Stud [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Dec 9];10:8-12. Available from: http://www.jacsonline.in/text.asp?2022/10/1/8/343854

  Introduction Top

Nonconventional learning on sustainable development is recently known to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) created by the United Nations since it promotes development objectively with an emphasis on traditional learning (Leal Filho, 2021). This article discusses the role of yoga-based learning and how it could possibly enhance the SDGs. In fact, India has a long history of yoga and the ancient Sanskrit scripture, Patanjali's Yogasastra compiled over two millennia ago revealed the concept, philosophy, practice, and benefits of yoga in society (Woods, 2003). India's renowned spiritual leader, Vivekananda, initially introduced yoga in the United States when he founded the Vedanta Society in New York in 1894 (Beckerlegge, 2013). Yoga became popular in Europe when members of the popular rock band, Beatles went to India in 1968 to learn yoga at Rishikesh, a small town located at the foothills of the Himalayas (Reck, 1985). Yoga received global recognition at the United Nations when 177 member countries endorsed the creation of the first International Day of Yoga on June 21, 2015, which provided a platform to promote traditional learning to catalyze the SDGs (Lefurgey, 2018).

In 2015, the United Nations pioneered 17 SDGs that were composed of a declaration to end global poverty while ensuring human prosperity and protection of nature from careless development. India is one of the 193 member countries who have signed the agenda to be achieved by 2030 (Srivastava, 2018). Yoga creates a balance within the individual mind that emanates as societal harmony externally. Due to the unique feature of yoga, we propose that yoga-based learning can serve as a potential solution to achieve the SDGs. To carry through sustainability, one will require a peaceful mind, and yoga nurtures that sort of harmonious mental disposition (Kishida et al., 2018). Therefore, we posit yoga as a potential candidate to achieve the SDGs. Environmental degradation and global warming threats are increasing at an alarming pace even threatening the food production globally (Ramp, 2014). It is time to explore all means to find solutions, and hence exploring yoga as a means to attain the SDGs is relevant in today's world.

  Threat of Unsustainable Development Top

Naturalist Attenborough recently cautioned the UN Security Council that climate change has become the largest security threat to humanity (Jenkins, 2021). To make matters worse, the extinction rates of wildlife species have stretched more than 1000 times greater than the standard extinction dogged by natural selection. The aggressive unsustainable developmental deeds of the past century out rightly ignored the long-held traditional values that relied on nature. The contemporary society can no longer depend on technological solutions alone. It certainly needs the guidance of traditional knowledge to sustain the planet's limited resources for future generations (Molnár & Babaim, 2021). One may wonder why now, and the answer is simple as the impetuous development has wiped out over 500 species of terrestrial vertebrates in the past century alone. At present, about 2% of the estimated 29,000 vertebrate species have become critically endangered (Ceballos et al., 2020). If humanity cannot reverse the unsustainable trend, it could wipe out hundreds of highly endangered species in the coming decades. Diverse species of fauna, flora, and fungi play a vital role to sustain fragile ecosystems (West, 2015). Instant loss of species could start a chain reaction destabilizing nature's unique services to mankind that include pollinating food crops, preventing diseases, providing clean water, and sustaining life at large.

  Yoga Promotes Individual and Social Discipline Top

People are often attracted toward the art and science of yoga as the practice enhances physical and mental fitness (Agoramoorthy, 2019). Thus, it plays a business role in the fast-growing wellness industry (Ross et al., 2013). However, little is known on the philosophy interlocked in yoga-based learning, and it indeed promotes healthier lifestyle, superior social discipline, and enhanced harmony (Berent et al., 2014). They are the key ingredients to invoke the SDGs at the individual and societal heights. The yogic social discipline mandates a person to uphold nonviolence (thoughts, words, and actions), maintain truthfulness, avoid stealing, and escape from the clutches of greed. The individual discipline includes maintenance of cleanliness, tranquility, austerity, self-study, and surrender to consciousness at all times (Woods, 2003). Furthermore, yoga-based learning encourages people to express four basic attitudes to promote peace that includes friendliness, compassion, cheerfulness, and indifference. The abovementioned values shape the human mind to stand by the ethical way of living with a potential to promote SGDs in the globalized world.

Besides, reverence to five basic elements such as air, earth, fire, water, and space are also included as they connect the organs of actions such as touching, smelling, seeing, tasting, and hearing, respectively (Lad, 2002). Future survival of humanity depends on the wise use of natural resources by strictly adhering to the SDGs. If the yoga-based traditional learning could be exposed to students early in life, a moral attitude to promote the SDGs will emerge leading to positive change in lifestyle. It will in turn promote sustainability at the individual level and then at the societal level, which will eventually minimize climate change impacts (Agoramoorthy, 2009).

  Yoga and Sustainability Top

From grammar school to graduate school, teachers play a crucial role in education to promote the SDGs. Yoga teachers, especially are known to lead revolutionary projects to revive forests and rivers to attain the SDGs. For example, a social movement was initiated recently to plant trees and to protect rivers with an objective to plant over two billion trees along the banks of the holy river Cauvery in south India (Kaibara, 2021). The river rejuvenation attracted not only thousands of volunteers but also cornered millions of dollars through donations. India's rivers by the way have been revered by people for centuries (Agoramoorthy, 2015). Some organize yoga camps on a large scale in support of river cleaning and tree planting endeavors across India, whereas others promote forest conservation to remind followers of the ancestral practice of tree worship and forest preservation through sacred groves (Singleton, 2014).

Yoga creates an inner disposition that grooms one to go beyond the limitations (Woods, 2003). Besides, it fosters holistic and encompassing outlook internally and toward the environment. The concerns of environmental glitches are often not expressed out rightly and acted upon spontaneously in society. Even if they are expressed, they end up as mere lip service as the values associated with preserving environmental integrity have not been fully assimilated within the personalities of people. This is not surprising, as it is evident that one can think of harmony and inclusion only when they are mentally tuned internally. When one thinks about development, environmental concerns may not make much sense. For example, experts interviewed 3468 leaders from 126 low-to-middle income countries recently and found that the environment received the least interest among them and their citizens. However, the leaders have shown more interest toward expanding education, institutional building, and economic prosperity as their top priorities (Custer et al., 2018). Yoga can certainly lend a hand in a unique way to outgrow one's inner limitations, be it an ordinary citizen or a national leader; they all can be transformed internally. The practice of yoga in fact revives clarity of thought to appraise concerns with a positive outlook to benefit the society (Lefurgey, 2018). When a person is mentally content, the inner serenity can be expressed in the form of harmony with external nature. Every act of such balanced individuals is bound to be in sync with the harmony of the external world (Woods, 2003).

Implementation of yoga-based learning to sustain sustainability will be a challenging undertaking, as ecological sensitivity has remained a blind spot both in academia and in practice. It is always a small group of organizations and activists that carry the flame of environmental sustainability. The vast majority of the people tend to be preoccupied with self-desired activities as they are unable to overcome the limitations. A study shows that people often encounter cognitive difficulties in achieving environmental awareness due to the imperceptible nature of the complex problems associated with climate change and the intricacies of ecological interactions (Robelia & Murphy, 2012). This shows how the desire-driven mind continues to remain as an intimidating barrier toward achieving the SDGs. Yoga has the potential to break the barrier since the teachings not only integrate postures, breathing, and meditation but also inoculate strong ethical chastisement at its roots. Hence, preparing a student in yoga learning can initiate culturing environmental sensitivity and in combination with practice-oriented curriculum composed of carefully knitted activities can complete the learning framework to propel the SDGs, which is a priority. To have a receptive environmental learning curriculum, action-oriented knowledge strategies have been suggested which effectively use project-based, problem-based, community service activities to impart a lasting experience of these environmental values (Ardoina et al., 2020).

An advantage of adopting the sustainable goal-oriented yoga-learning curriculum is that the effect of those planned activities can act as an immediate reinforcement in shaping behavioral plasticity. This is also crucial, as in many institutes of higher learning, students on an average spend only 2–3 years, and within that short period such reformative mindset has to be imbibed, and this target can be efficiently achieved by adopting activity-based learning. Yet, another thrust area of SDGs is to promote responsible consumption (Leal Filho, 2021). Due to the unsaturated human needs, wasteful consumption of natural resources has been on the rise, which is a threat to environmental harmony. The basis of this hoarding behavior and insecure feeling stems from dissatisfaction induced by ignorance of the inner self. Yoga is a useful tool to reform and uplift the oblivious state of mind to promote consumption more ethically (Subrahmanyan et al., 2015). One way to practice is through consciously engaging the sattva guna to maximize elevating deeds, while restraining rajas and tamas, to minimize excessive desire-propelled gloomy undertakings (Sullivan et al., 2018). When various acts of noble deeds are consciously completed, they shape sattvic disposition enabling all other desirable attributes of a harmonious mind.

To make environmental sustenance an active practice across the academia, a few programs and audits can be proposed. Green audit has become mandatory for the accreditation of academic institutes through the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC, 2021). Options to demonstrate outcomes of various action-oriented initiatives can become one of the components of green audit. However, can the policy executions provide a long-term solution to achieve the SDGs? It's time to realize that no sustainable activity can thrive without a strong self-initiated effort. The role of academia should be to support staff and students to reach a point where they can self-propel sustainability actions. Relying on policies alone to implement the SDGs may not give great dividends. However, being enrolled at schools can be ensured that students get themselves prepared to take up sustainability measures without external enforcement. We would like to emphasize that yoga can play a key role in making an individual to become self-reliant and resourceful because it essentially nurtures the core inner traits that shape the basis of all sustainable endeavors.

Thus, yoga-based learning promotes environmental conservation, especially forests, mountains, rivers, and oceans as sites of spiritual status (Agoramoorthy, 2015). The sacred groves of the Western Ghats rainforests in Southern India, for instance, are home to numerous species of endangered fauna and flora (Agoramoorthy, 2009). India's popular yoga teachers have millions of followers in social media; they convince supporters to cultivate a sense of self-identity to endorse a collective cause aiding humanity (Kegan, 1982). Thus, the outcome leads to the contributions achieving the SDGs. Students are often reminded in high school that history repeats itself. Hence, they have to learn about the past environmental mistakes to avoid repeating them again. For example, we have used toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizers for over half a century that contaminated the groundwater, soil fertility, and air quality. We have now realized that the organic farming practiced by our ancestors along the sacred river basins stands out as the best option. There is no wonder why the green marketing scenarios dominate the news lately (Zhang & Dong, 2020). Hence, the students ought to be taught that nothing is redundant in nature. Even a tiny soil microbe has its role to play in the process of sustaining the biosphere. It is therefore time to rejuvenate the ecological way of thinking and living to enhance the SDGs to mitigate the imminent threats posed by climate change consequences.

  Recommendations for Policy Implementation Top

Based on the above discussion, we propose the following policy recommendations to educational institutions:

  • Introduce a secular yoga-based curriculum in schools and colleges and make it a means to achieve overall personality growth, with emphasis on ethical and moral education.
  • Develop separate action-oriented curriculum for school and college students to promote environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Introduce periodic green audits in educational institutions, and reward the best practices adopted by institutions to groom environmental sustenance and responsible consumption.
  • Conduct periodic awareness camps, and cocurricular activities surrounding the themes of achieving the SDGs at large.
  • At the governance level, educational schemes and research programs can be initiated to encourage the environmental sustenance practices of various institutions.

  Conclusion Top

The key to sustainability rests in the alignment of wise thoughts with actions so that people are compatible with longitudinal goals to harmoniously coexist with nature, while calling for an intentional deferral of greedy gratifications resulting in unsustainability. The road map to make this possible has been portrayed in the ancient yoga traditional values that start with the refinement of individual and social discipline to sustain SDGs at large.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Agoramoorthy, G., (2009). Sustainable development. In The Power of Water to Ease Poverty and Enhance Ecology. Delhi: Daya Publishing House.  Back to cited text no. 1
Agoramoorthy, G., (2015). Sacred rivers: Their spiritual significance in Hindu religion. The Journal of Religion and Health, 54(3), 1080-1090.  Back to cited text no. 2
Agoramoorthy, G., (2019). Interdisciplinary science and yoga: The challenges ahead. International Journal of Yoga, 12(2), 89-90.  Back to cited text no. 3
Ardoina, N. M., Bowersd, A. W., & Gaillard, E., (2020). Environmental education outcomes for conservation: A systematic review. Biological Conservation, 241, 108224.  Back to cited text no. 4
Beckerlegge, G., (2013). Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) 150 years on: Critical studies of an inffuential Hindu Guru. Religion Compass, 7, 444-453.  Back to cited text no. 5
Berent, G. R., Zeck, J. M., Leischner, J. A., & Berent, E. A., (2014). Yoga as an alternative intervention for promoting a healthy lifestyle among college students. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 25(4), 167-171.  Back to cited text no. 6
Ceballos, G., Ehrlich, P. R., & Raven, P. H., (2020). Vertebrates on the brink as indicators of biological annihilation and the sixth mass extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(24), 13596-13602.  Back to cited text no. 7
Custer, S., DiLorenzo, M., Masaki, T., Sethi, T., & Harutyunyan, A., (2018). Listening to Leaders 2018: Is Development Cooperation Tuned-in or Tone-Deaf? Williamsburg, VA: AidData at the College of William & Mary.  Back to cited text no. 8
Jenkins, C., (2021). David Attenborough to UN: Climate Change is Biggest Threat Modern Humans have Ever Faced. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/homenews/news/540058-david-attenborough-warns-un-security-council-on-climate-change-i-dont-envy-you. [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 9
Kaibara, H., (2021). Cauvery calling: A possible solution for a dying river and desperate farmers. Education about Asia, 26, 1-5.  Back to cited text no. 10
Kegan, R., (1982). The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.  Back to cited text no. 11
Kishida, M., Mama, S. K., Larkey, L. K., & Elavsky, S., (2018). Yoga resets my inner peace barometer: A qualitative study illuminating the pathways of how yoga impacts one's relationship to oneself and to others. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 40, 215-221.  Back to cited text no. 12
Lad, V., (2002). The Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles. Albuquerque: Ayurvedic Press.  Back to cited text no. 13
Leal Filho, W., (2021). Non-conventional learning on sustainable development: Achieving the SDGs. Environmental Sciences Europe, 33,1-4.  Back to cited text no. 14
Lefurgey, M., (2018). Yoga in transition: Exploring the rise of yoga in peace building. Religions of South Asia, 11, 254-273.  Back to cited text no. 15
Molnár, Z., & Babai, D., (2021). Inviting ecologists to delve deeper into traditional ecological knowledge. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 36(8), 679-690.  Back to cited text no. 16
NAAC., (2021). Manuals. Retrieved from http://www.naac.gov.in/index.php/en/resources/publications/manuals. [Last accessed 2021 Nov 21].  Back to cited text no. 17
Ramp, W., (2014). Complicating food security: Definitions, discourses, commitments. Canadian Studies in Population, 41, 117-134.  Back to cited text no. 18
Reck, D., (1985). Beatles orientalis: Influences from Asia in a popular song tradition. Asian Music, 16, 83-149.  Back to cited text no. 19
Robelia, B., & Murphy, T., (2012). What do people know about key environmental issues? A review of environmental knowledge surveys. Environmental Education Research, 18, 299-321.  Back to cited text no. 20
Ross, A., Friedmann, E., Bevans, M., & Thomas, S., (2013). National survey of yoga practitioners: Mental and physical health benefits. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 21(4), 313-323.  Back to cited text no. 21
Singleton, M., (2014). Gurus of Modern Yoga. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Back to cited text no. 22
Srivastava, A., (2018). Standardizing evaluation process: Necessary for achieving SDGs – A case study of India. Evaluation and Program Planning, 69, 118-124.  Back to cited text no. 23
Subrahmanyan, S., Stinerock, S., & Banbury, C., (2015). Ethical consumption: Uncovering personal meanings and negotiation strategies. Geoforum, 67, 214-222.  Back to cited text no. 24
Sullivan, M. B., Erb, M., Schmalzl, L., Moonaz, S., Noggle Taylor, J., & Porges, S. W., (2018). Yoga therapy and polyvagal theory: The convergence of traditional wisdom and contemporary neuroscience for self-regulation and resilience. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12, 67.  Back to cited text no. 25
West, A., (2015). Core concept: Ecosystem services. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(24), 7337-7338.  Back to cited text no. 26
Woods, J. H., (2003). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Delhi: Dover Publications.  Back to cited text no. 27
Zhang, X., & Dong, F., (2020). Why do consumers make green purchase decisions? Insights from a systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, 6607.  Back to cited text no. 28


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
Threat of Unsust...
Yoga Promotes In...
Yoga and Sustain...
Recommendations ...
Threat of Unsust...
Yoga Promotes In...
Yoga and Sustain...
Recommendations ...

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded342    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal